child’s mind is a primary goal of home education and is
absolutely essential to helping our children become what God
wants them to be. Edith Stein believed in balanced
formation--the heart, soul and mind all need to be educated.
She was a strong critic of the education system of her day
which stressed memorization and the acquisition of unrelated
facts. Charlotte Mason concurs when she writes, “Upon the
knowledge of these great matters—History, Literature, Nature,
Science, Art—the Mind feeds and grows. It assimilates
such knowledge as the body assimilates food, and the person
becomes what is called magnanimous, that is a person of great
mind, wide interests, incapable of occupying himself much about
petty, personal matters. What a pity to lose sight of
such a possibility for the sake of miserable scraps of
information about persons and things that have little
connection with one another and little connection with
ourselves!” (Ourselves, p.78). Edith Stein deplored the fact
that the idea of education typically is “that of encyclopedic
knowledge: the presumed concept of the mind [is] that of the
tabula rasa onto which as many impressions as possible
[are] to be registered through intellectual perceptions and
memorizations." (Woman, Edith Stein, p.130) Like
Charlotte Mason, she recognized that education is so much more
than the acquisition of encyclopedic knowledge. In
the poetic words of William Butler Yeats,
“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”
Edith Stein wrote that the
teacher’s job was to encourage the student’s “inner
participation” in the educational process. She was to get
the student excited about the material, encourage a response,
offer guidance, but ultimately the child was to make it his
own. “The teacher’s role in the formation of the students
is an indirect one since all development is self-development.
All training is self-training” (Woman, p. 5).
With these three
forces in mind, we can look at a new paradigm for home
education, one which focuses upon developing the whole
personality of the child-- the heart, soul and mind using the
wisdom of Edith Stein, Charlotte Mason and others to pursue a
happy, wholehearted, academically excellent, spiritually
Over and over again, both Edith Stein and
Charlotte Mason articulate beautifully the need to reach a
child’s heart in order to truly educate him. We cannot
limit education to that which is poured into a child’s brain.
Instead, we seek to touch the core of the child. Stein
writes, “Actual formative material is received not merely by
the senses and intellect but is integrated by the ‘heart and
soul’ as well. But if it actually becomes transformed
into the soul, then it ceases to be mere material: it works
itself, forming, developing; it helps the soul to reach its
intended gestalt" (Woman, p.131).
I don’t consider education from the
perspective of filling buckets because I don’t consider
children from that perspective. When I look at a child, I
see a living breathing person made in God’s image for whom God
has a plan. As parent educators, we need to embrace a new
notion of learning. We need to help the child discern the
Lord’s will and equip him to answer his particular call.
It is the heart and soul of the child we want to touch.
For our purposes, we need to engage the heart in order to
effectively educate the child. Our vision of a
well-educated child is a child who has a heart for learning, a
child who has the tools he needs to continue to learn for a
lifetime and the love to want to do it. He has been led
to a lifetime of learning all the time.
We must be absolutely certain of our
goals in education. When we know where we are going, we
can confidently chart our course. We want children who
know, love, and serve the Lord. As their primary
educators, it is our privilege and our duty to equip them for
I want my children to love learning.
I want them to revel in their curiosity and delight in their
discoveries. And I want to learn alongside them.
If such a style of learning interests
you, you might be interested in reading Real Learning,
Education in the Heart of the Home from which the above was
taken. For a continuing discussion of real education at home,
please join the email forum :